Everyone wants to avoid the pain of balancing the federal budget and paying down the astronomical federal debt, now more than $15 trillion and growing. The Stupid Party (thank you, Bobby Jindal), aka the Republicans, vehemently opposes tax increases and instead pushes for cuts to domestic programs, while the Spending Party, aka the Democrats, wants to preserve domestic programs and raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
Since neither party could advance the budget ball out of the ideological scrum of national politics, both parties agreed to pass the Budget Control Act of 2011. That debt-ceiling compromise provided for automatic, mostly undiscriminating, reductions to federal spending, aka sequestration. The jump off that “fiscal cliff” scheduled for Jan. 1, 2013, was postponed until March 1, and as I write this neither the Stupids nor the Spenders has flinched.
The Spenders, led by President Barack Obama, are conducting a blatantly choreographed fear campaign to convince the public that sequestration would tank the economy and put the nation in danger from “drastic” cuts to critical services. Meanwhile, the Stupids are doing what they usually do these days — dutifully opposing anything the Spenders propose — and have little to offer but ideological bromides based on failed trickle-down economic theories, Ayn Rand fantasies, and romantic notions of 19th-century frontier self-reliance.
Not surprisingly, neither party is being realistic or honest. The essential reality is that federal spending must be reduced. The government simply cannot sustain its prodigious spending funded by ever-growing debt. Eventually, paper dollars will be exposed for what they are, high-quality paper with fine artistic engravings, but otherwise worthless.
Given our dysfunctional Congress, sequestration may be the best we can do for now to address the national debt. The Spenders’ fear-mongering aside, sequestration may not be an unreasonable first step. Total annual federal spending is about $3.5 trillion. The sequestration reduces that spending over nine years, initially at a clip of about $90 billion per year, increasing to an average of about $130 billion over the later years. That is a mere 2.6 percent to 3.7 percent reduction; and Medicaid, Social Security, military pay, food stamps and family-assistance programs are exempt from sequestration cuts. This is hardly draconian or over ambitious.
The Spenders do protest sequestration too much, methinks. If an annual reduction of $90 billion in government spending is enough to tank the $15 trillion U.S. economy, then the economy is hopelessly fragile and unsustainably over-dependent on government deficit spending.
About 42 percent of total sequestration reductions come from defense, as they should. This nation grossly overspends on defense — much of it wasteful. Nevertheless, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned that the sequestration cuts would make America a second-rate military power. Really? Second to whom? America already spends more on defense that do the next 15 or so highest defense-spending nations combined. Sequestration takes less than 10 percent away from defense.
Furthermore, one of the larger cuts to defense would be fighter jets, some of which the military has said it does not need, but that some pork-barrel congressmen insist on providing to keep their constituents and clients happy.
This is a perfect example of the problem we have in balancing the federal budget. There are so many snouts in the federal trough that whenever a hog is threatened with losing some slop the squealing is ear-piercing. Every hog feels it is more entitled than are the other hogs. In fact, most of them could sustain a cut in rations, while some could be slaughtered for bacon.
A good place to find bacon is in Congress. Now, there is where we can find some of the most overfed hogs and sows sucking up federal slop. How about we furlough these pigs? They do not get anything done anyway — except to be sure to give themselves singularly generous pay and benefits for their “service.” Do we really need these swine rooting around Washington, D.C., most of the year? Cut their “service” time back to three or four months per year, and take away their exclusive benefits. They can join the rest of us on Social Security and Medicare.
The biggest mistake this nation made was granting the federal government the right to tax incomes. It showered Congress with the booty that financed the hog farm we have now. It funded a massive, intrusive, increase in federal power and shaped a federal government beholden to special interests rather than to best interests.
But, if the money is not there to pay for federal excesses, government must assume a more frugal, limited role in our lives. And, as federal power shrinks, selfish special interests have less opportunity to influence policy that affects us all.
If the hogs are squealing, let them. Bacon is tasty.